eczema hand washing

Eczema & hand washing in schools and nurseries

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With all the increased focus on hand-washing over the last couple of years, many children (and adults) have been suffering with sore, red and cracked hands. For some parents this will be their first experience of managing eczema, and for others it is an unwelcome additional factor they have to manage in their long battle to keep their child’s eczema under control.

What can I do?

Luckily there are some simple things you can do to help ease the discomfort for your child:

  • Give up the antibacterial gels and harsh soap products. The National Eczema Society (see link below) advises that children with eczema should be allowed to do double hand-washing at school instead of using antibacterial gels. The process for this is as follows:
    • Wash with their own soap for 20 seconds (talk to your GP or pharmacist to find one specially formulated for sensitive skin, and switch to using this at home as well).
    • Then, immediately rewash for 20 seconds with their usual emollient (if you don’t use emollient – which is a medical moisturiser – already, follow advice from your GP or pharmacist on which one to try).
    • Dry using a paper towel rather than a hand drier, as this just dries out the skin further. If the school is not happy about using paper towels, you can ask them if your child can bring in their own clean towel each day.
    • Once hands are dry, apply emollient (medical moisturiser) again.
  • At home and at school moisturise hands with emollient (medical moisturiser) multiple times a day. Really until the eczema has cleared up then very frequent application is best. Ideally at least 5 to 6 times a day, particularly after hand-washing.
  • Whilst eczema is active, try and avoid too much messy play, contact with any irritants (including bubble baths and scented shampoo or shower gels), or extended amounts of time with their hands in water (e.g. if you child likes to ‘help’ with the washing up!). Emollients (medical moisturisers) can be used as a soap substitute in the bath if necessary.

The process above will involve working with your child’s school or nursery and, understandably, some are still unsure about how flexible they can be regarding hand-washing policies. To support your conversations, the National Eczema Society have helpfully put together an information sheet which you can share with the school.

If you’re struggling with your child’s eczema more generally, make sure to check out my post on practical tips for managing eczema in babies & young children. After 5 years, with lots of perseverance, trial and error, medical appointments and – most helpfully – learning from other parents, we’ve now at long last got to a point where it is pretty much under control for both of my kids. I’ve finally got round to writing up all the things I wish I had known about eczema when I first saw it developing on my baby, focusing on practical tips and managing triggers. I hope it will help some others avoid the lengthy trial and error process I went through!

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